The Army National Guard has ceased payments to soldiers for student loan debt as the service component faces unforeseen funding issues, and officials have no timeline for when the problem may be resolved.
The issue is isolated within the Student Loan Repayment Program, or SLRP -- one of the key incentives for joining the part-time service -- and affects federal student debt incurred between 2020 and 2022. That program pays for up to $50,000 in debt, a pitch that is attractive to applicants who have already attended school. The program is separate from National Guard tuition assistance and the GI Bill scholarship programs, which are not impacted by the disruption in pay.
"Current system limitations require technical accounting steps to take place to realign funding," Deidre Forster, a Guard spokesperson, told Military.com in a statement. "The [Army National Guard] is actively working to realign funding that will allow the resumption of payments."
Officials did not respond to a request for comment about when the issue is expected to be resolved or how many soldiers are impacted. The issue was first reported by Army Times.
It's unclear whether the service component has notified the wider force about the payment holdups. A review of its public-facing social media, including senior leadership, by Military.com found no notice of the payment suspension.
The news comes as the Army just made its way out of the woods on another, unrelated disaster with education benefits. After the service launched the buggy Army IgnitED, an online portal for education benefits, tuition payments were stalled and the whole benefit apparatus had effectively been in a meltdown since 2021, with hundreds of soldiers having to pay out of pocket for schooling.
The service is just now wrapping up processing 23,000 outstanding payments to schools. At least one school, the University of New Mexico, temporarily stopped accepting provisional Army tuition payments due to repeated issues with the service paying its bills.
Army and Guard officials routinely say education benefits are a top recruiting tool. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, the service's top enlisted leader, initially enlisted for a short, two-term contract for education benefits.
President Joe Biden made canceling large swaths of federal student loan debt a key effort of his presidency, something that has not come to fruition in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in June. The administration has since been working on a debt relief program, but military service is among the most direct paths for debt repayment -- and something the National Guard has touted heavily for years to build its ranks.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.